Some Rattlesnakes Reportedly Losing Their Rattle in South Dakota

Posted on August 31, 2013

Are rattlesnakes losing their rattles? An NPR report says some Prarie Rattlesnakes (Crotalus viridis) are indeed losing their distinctive rattle in South Dakota. NPR interviewed Terry Phillip, a herpetologist and curator of reptiles at Reptile Gardens. Phillip has noticed a growing number of rattlesnakes with atrophied tail muscles that can not make the warning rattle used by rattlesnakes with normal tales.

The rattlesnakes with the atrophied tail muscles may be surviving because they are less likely to be discovered. Phillip told NPR the snakes that can rattle often end up being killed with a shovel or a .22 pistol.

Phillip told NPR, "And so the snakes that have that genetic defect, those are the ones that are surviving to then reproduce, and they're passing on that genetic defect to their offspring."

These silent venomous rattlesnakes are potentially more dangerous for hikers and anyone else who may encounter them. Without the warning rattle, people may not notice the rattlesnake until they have stepped on it. NPR also says the Phillip says these rattlesnakes tend to be more aggressive since they cannot rattle.

Here is a video about that Prarie Rattlesnake by Orry Martin. The rattlesnake in this video has a loud clear rattle. Take a look: